Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why the Dead Kennedys had the best logo in Rock.

I’m a wannabe barfly. Fortunately, living in the burbs with toddler boys makes me cherish the rare opportunity to hang out and kvetch. I also demand that my work neighborhood provides the breeding ground for revolutionary, and yes, disruptive solutions to life’s problems. All of which can be accomplished with increasingly early-starting happy hours and beer for less than 3 bucks. Once again, mirroring the plummeting parking prices, the bargain-hunting, pre-funded, wannabe barfly can now hang out a stone’s throw from the Financial District and their better-heeled patrons. Even though my office is above Kate O’Brien’s, I can tell you they’re the worst bar in town with their phony Irish theme, so I never go there anymore. No, you can find me searching for liquid inspiration at either Zebulon or Varnish.

They ain’t perfect. Zebulon has a good kitchen and makes a decent sweet potato fries, but their bar is kind of a joke. The $2 Hefeweissen draft happy hour sure brought the office yups in, but what did this establishment do with this crowd? Served ‘em a drink a minute. Patrons seemed all to accommodating waiting in line for 15 minutes to get a drink. We hung on as long as we could before we decided we had to leave the nearly free as in beer giveaway. Next door at Varnish, you know it’s a tad imposing when passer-by-ers peer in and need to be waved in by the proprietor before they step inside. My friend Josh says they have the best bar bathroom in the city. I would concur, because there are pictures of the space before they got it, and they really did transform it in to a fine gallery with an excellent sound system. And, they have that killer minimalist big bowl sink that dares you to wash your face in its elegance.

As we sidled, I paused to admire the gargantuan collage being assembled on top of a DaVinci’s Last Supper by an older gentleman wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt with a blazer and fedora. This off-kilter vision inspired my tweet about why their logo is the best in rock. This is awarded not because I was a big fan of their music. It was mainly because it was the one logo I used to like to copy so much in the 8th grade. (I was a big-time rock doodler). I can’t draw, but I can sketch logos with a lot of practice on notebook covers since I never actually took notes in school. Plus, it effectively signaled to all that I am not your run-of-the-mill serious Asian American straight-A student. I’d rather fail and change my grade just like the kid in War Games, except that I couldn’t break into the school computer, so I just retook the class in summer school erasing that unacceptable grade. Any way, I figured out the next morning that the aforementioned artist is none other than Winston Smith, the designer of the subject of this post. He is an illustrious cover art designer and quite an Art Criminal. This anti-corporate manifesto is to be admired. Winston, like most designers, do not receive royalties for these logos. Its de facto open source now, as both Jello and Winston's core styles are derivative and Warholian on crack.

Being extended an equally generous offer of an early happy hour special of $3 drafts, coupled with the fact that they have my new fave on tap, Racer 5 IPA, I was blissful again about my work neighborhood and my 2 (sf-sized) block walk to Montgomery BART. Mindful, of course, that the entire block of buildings that house Varnish and Zebulon is slated for demolition next year in order to build a bigger, better bus terminal. Ah yes, progress via wrecking ball.

Let’s rage against this dying of the light and appreciate this moment in nirvana. I’ll admit that I appreciated from afar the few bits of skateboard culture that permeated my suburban Chicago upbringing. This DK logo looked like Anarchy. Its was the Burning Man on its side passed out. It create the illusion of dimension and it’s extrusions are so simple, juxtaposing white and black. The fact that this logo speaks so much about the band even though I was uninitiated into the music is impressive. I knew that coolness was happening over in California, that the rebellion was alive and well with authentic Punk Rock. Of course, 20 years later, Jello Biafra and the other members of the band could never escape the inevitable revenue-splitting issues that haunt every band not named Bon Jovi. Everyone needs to make a living, right? You formed a band and played music, and that was good enough when you’re twenty. In your 40s, its time to strategize your revenue potential and synergize your investment portfolio, right? Can revolutionary rock bands be created like a tech startup? Would it destroy the very essence of rebellion and art that make you great? I know that I can appreciate the slight economic downturn in this boom town. We need breeding grounds and moments like these inspire me to hatch the next user-centric revolution. I now love the music of the Dead Kennedys thanks to my Sonos and Rhapsody, can relive the culture they helped define. I have been passively exposed to the artwork of Winston Smith and can question how collage as an artform is still relavent today. All this in search of cheap beer, in the very neighborhood which I work.

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